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Christina A. Neal

I have 38 years of experience as a USGS volcanologist. As the Volcano Science Center Director, I oversee the work of 170 employees at five U.S. volcano observatories and the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program. I am responsible for science and operational planning; workforce development; improving diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and preparing the USGS for U.S. volcanic eruptions.

I have worked for the USGS on various aspects of volcanology, eruption response, and hazard assessment and risk mitigation since 1983. I was introduced to volcanoes in college looking at Viking Orbiter images of Olympus Mons on Mars. My first Earthly volcano was Mount St. Helens where I spent the summer of 1982 studying small-volume pyroclastic flow deposits from 1980. I learned about lava and volcano monitoring as an assistant geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in the early days of the Pu`u`O`o eruption and mapped the summit and southwest rift zone of Kīlauea Volcano as part of the Big Island Geologic Mapping Project working for Ed Wolfe. In 1985, I spent a month at sea on an ALVIN expedition to the active propagating rift system near the Galapagos at 95.5W.

I moved to the new Alaska Volcano Observatory in 1990 where I participated in eruption response and physical volcanologic studies at Redoubt, Spurr, Augustine, Okmok, and other Aleutian volcanoes. My science focus was illuminating eruptive histories at Aniakchak and Okmok calderas, characterizing young pyroclastic deposits and processes, and hazard assessment. I developed strong interests and experience in managing volcano hazard information, developing warning systems, interagency coordination, and volcanic ash and aviation hazards.  For some time, I led collaboration between the Alaska Volcano Observatory and colleagues in Kamchatka and Sakhalin to expand Russian eruption warning systems.

I served as the first USGS Geoscience Advisor to USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (1998-2000) where I developed and facilitated programs supporting disaster mitigation abroad. From 2009-2010, I completed two details to the USGS Western Regional Office as Chief of Staff and Deputy Regional Director. In 2011-2012, I represented the Volcano Hazards Program and Science Center during development of the USGS Hazards Mission Strategic Science Plan.

I served as Scientist-in-Charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory from 2015-2020, overseeing a staff of 30 and managing response to the 2018 lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea.  During my tenure, I focused on hiring a new generation of HVO scientists, planning for new facilities and science initiatives following Congressional funding in the aftermath of the 2018 event, and preparing for a Mauna Loa eruption.

I returned to Alaska in 2020 and became Center Director in May 2021. My focus at this time is preparing for growth that may occur as part of the Congressionally authorized National Volcano Early Warning System and ensuring adequate support for our workforce to carry out the VSC goals to better understand volcanic processes and hazards, and provide timely guidance and information to help protect lives and property.   


Education and Certifications

  • Sc.B, Geological Sciences, Brown University, 1981

  • M.S. Geological Sciences, Arizona State University, 1986

Affiliations and Memberships

  • Geological Society of Ameria (Fellow)

  • American Geophysical Union

  • International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior

Honors and Awards

  • 2019 Samuel J. Heymann Service to America finalist, HVO staff

  • 2019 DOI Unit Award for Excellence of Service, HVO staff, for Kīlauea response

  • 2016 Elected Fellow, Geological Society of America

  • 2006 Superior Service Award, DOI

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